Winning together – partnership between Swedish corporates and Indian startups

When I attend meetings and events in India, I hear a lot of buzz about startups. India is quickly becoming a leading global startup hub. Rising numbers of entrepreneurs, incubators, international and local VCs, and multinational corporations are turbocharging the development of a burgeoning tech scene.

There are more than 180 Swedish companies in India. Some of them are already engaging with Indian startups while some are not ready to take the plunge yet. The Indian government is investing heavily to grow domestic start-up ecosystem and hopefully this will lead to more positive partnerships between Swedish corporates and Indian startups.

From a Government perspective, Sweden and India signed a Joint Declaration on Sweden-India Innovation Partnership for a Sustainable Future during the historic visit by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Stockholm in April 2018. Cooperation between Sweden and India in the area of startups is an important part of the Joint Innovation Partnership.

And to discuss more about opportunities for collaboration in this space, the Embassy of Sweden in New Delhi organized the 12th Sweden India Nobel Memorial CEO Round table in December 2018 in New Delhi. The theme of the round table meeting was how corporates can collaborate with startups.

We had a room full of senior government officials along with CEOs and MDs of Swedish Partner companies and a selection of Indian incubators. Niklas Johansson, then State Secretary to Minister of Enterprise and Innovation was the special guest at the round table. Senior officials from Swedish Innovation agency Vinnova also joined the round table.

From India, Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India; Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology; Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Mr Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion attended were the high-level representatives from government. Keynote speaker was Ms Debjani Ghosh, President, NASSCOM. The round table meeting was moderated by Shereen Bhan, CNBC TV 18. You can watch a glimpse of some discussions in this video.

It was interesting for me to learn that today there are startups coming not only from Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru, but also from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. The diversity in the ecosystem has grown to 12 percent.

Under the leadership of Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, the Indian Government has committed to building a New India by boosting the innovation ecosystem and supporting budding entrepreneurs. In this regard, an initiative focused on Accelerating Growth for New India Innovations (AGNIi) has been launched that aspires to aid, assist and transform ingenious solutions, products and technologies into commercially viable products.

In the spirit of the Sweden-India Joint Declaration on Innovation Partnership for a Sustainable Future, Business Sweden together with industry partners are engaging the Indian startup ecosystem to address social needs through open innovation challenges under the Unnati program. AGNIi is partnering with the Unnati program with Swedish companies such as Fortum, IKEA, Astra Zeneca and Volvo to launch innovation challenges.

State Secretary Niklas Johansson, Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation. Photo: Science and Innovation Office India.

We put together four case studies ahead of the event to share best practice with the companies. Swedish corporates such as ABB has been successful in working with the Indian startups. ABB already has 12 partnerships with Indian startups who have brought in expertise and have plugged gaps for them. Ericsson India has a long standing partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-D). Ericsson has recently set up a 5G test bed at IIT-D. Others such as Volvo, IKEA, Tetrapak and Sandvik are also engaging with the local startup ecosystem.

Looking ahead, there is much potential to be realized between India and Sweden, despite the obvious differences in size and demography. This goes for both Government to Government as well as the industry relations. The Swedish government will continue to work with the Indian government to support continued increased exchange including research and innovation between the two countries.